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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
  • Smyrna Council approves 2014 budget with property tax, utility rate increases

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  • Smyrna Town Council members approved a 2014 budget Monday night that includes increases across the board but is still seen as a bare bones spending plan.
    Councilwoman Valerie White and Councilman John Embert voted against the budget.
    The 2014 budget includes a five-cent property tax increase that will increase the tax from 31 cents to 36 cents per $100 of assessed value. The trash fee will increase $3 a month, the water and sewer rate will increase five percent, and the electric fee will increase about two percent. The total impact for residents per month will be about $10.
    Councilman Robert Johnson said the budget does have a surplus of $47,000; the Finance Committee was tasked last week with cutting $500,000 from the budget and balancing it without using reserves.
    "There is no major equipment we're replacing. There's not much in there at all," Johnson said. "This is a bare bones budget."
    There was some discussion of further cutting down certain line items. Councilwoman Valerie White took issue with line items for personnel expenses and travel. White said it's not that these items are unimportant but felt those line items should be cut more since rates are being increased.
    Councilman Jeff Flairty disagreed with White stating council shouldn't micromanage department heads.
    "At the end of the day they have a job to do and frankly Councilwoman White I disagree with looking at each line item," Flairty said. "I believe our purpose is to give overall guidance. They're the managers and they should manage their departments the way they see fit."
    Flairty said if council wants to cut from the budget, they should determine a total amount to be cut by the managers.
    Johnson said there are certain aspects of the budget he agrees with while other aspects he's in disagreement with. Johnson approves of the $3 trash fee increase because there's $100,000 in spending the town doesn't pass on to residents; however, he's against the property tax increase so he suggested the town revisit the property tax increase in 2014.
    Mayor Joanne Masten said town won't officially set the tax rate for a few months so it can be revisited but the town may need some sort of increase to continue making progress as a town.
    "We can't continue to kick the can down the road. I want to see us move ahead. We already see what not raising taxes does. We can't move forward without raising them," Masten said.
    Councilwoman Andrea Rodriguez said the town is at a point where the town needs to do certain things to keep the town running. Rodriguez voiced her frustration that a new position for a human resources manager is not in the budget as there are issues the town is dealing with that should be handled with a HR person rather than a volunteer Personnel Committee.
    Page 2 of 2 - The agenda originally included items that proposed a hiring freeze, stopping salary increases, restricting take-home privileges for town vehicles, and postponing approval of professional services and continuing service contracts; however, these items were withdrawn from the agenda without council discussing them.
    After the budget was approved Johnson and Masten thanked everyone involved for their hard work.
    "There was more work done this year than in past years," Masten said. "These cuts are not something they wanted to do but had to do."
    Email Jennifer Dailey at jennifer.dailey@doverpost.com.

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